New Poll Finds Shallow Support for Climate Action, Partisan Split

October 9, 2008 | Jesse Jenkins,

By Breakthrough Senior Fellow Roger Pielke, jr., cross posted from Prometheus

Yesterday's E&E News PM (subscription) has an interesting article
about a new poll out on U.S. view of climate change, sponsored by a set
of environmental groups and consultants. It supports many arguments
that we have made here at Prometheus, such as the fact that support for
action on climate change is broad but shallow, the public generally
accepts a significant human role in climate change, and Al Gore has
played a big role in making the issue partisan (an even more
interesting finding because Gore's Alliance for Climate Protection is a
sponsor of the poll). I don't have the poll yet, but have requested it.
Meantime, here is an excerpt from the E&E News PM story:

A relatively small percentage of Americans strongly
believe that climate change requires urgent action, according to a
comprehensive survey conducted by a coalition of environmental groups.

The analysis sponsored by ecoAmerica, the Nature Conservancy, the
Alliance for Climate Protection and others found that 18 percent of
Americans "expressed strong agreement with a set of questions
expressing belief that global warming is real, that it is caused by
humans and that it is harmful."

And while a strong majority of the public believes that climate
change is happening, according to the analysis, they also have a "who
knows/who cares" attitude toward dealing with the problem. For that
reason, activists hoping to rally public support for climate
initiatives must use messaging centered around the development of green
technology, lifestyle improvements, and improving health and the
environment, the groups say.

"We need to talk about global warming as an American issue, not a
political issue," said Bob Perkowitz, founder and chairman of
ecoAmerica. "We intend to make a clear and convincing case that solving
global warming will produce immediate and long-lasting economic,
personal and national benefits."

Partisan split

The public's perception on climate change is linked closely to party affiliation, according to the survey.

Roughly 90 percent of Democrats and 73 percent of independents are
"convinced that global warming is happening," but 54 percent of
Republicans share such a view.

The biggest such party split was related to former Vice President Al Gore.

Seventy-one percent of Democrats agreed with the statement that they
"believe what Al Gore has to say about global warming and climate
change," compared to 22 percent of Republicans -- a difference of 49
percent. Similar, though smaller, splits of 30 percent or more existed
on other questions related to climate change's impacts and potential


This is the fifth try to enter the "right" Captcha text. I am a human being.

I don't understand changing a message because of a poll. Can you imagine Churchill before WWII in England? Polls would show him that he must portray the Hitler issue in terms of the "immediate and long-lasting economic, personal and national benefits" that would accrue to England if it placed itself on a war footing and prepared to hurl its 18 year olds onto battlefields to die. I think he just kept on message, we'll have to go to war with this guy and fight to finish him before he finishes us, until the public turned to him as the crisis intensified.

By david lewis on 2008 10 20

Another aspect is that many news stories report that, while the US will be affected by the carbon issue, that other countries will be hurt far worse and it may end up being a net benefit to the US. Such conflicting reports are a contributor to public apathy. I am not saying the reports are fake or are intentionally trying to mislead, just that a coherent picture has not formed in the US public imagination to drive actions.

By R Margolis on 2008 10 14